8 Factors to Consider During Your Internship Search

Erika Rief
Erika Rief

Erika Rief is in the MBA/MA in Design Leadership graduate program at Carey Business School and the Maryland Institute College of Art. Prior to graduate school, Erika worked in management consulting at Deloitte within the healthcare, data visualization, M&A, and strategy spheres. She spent this past summer interning with athenahealth's Strategic Design team, promoting design thinking principles throughout the company. Moving forward, she hopes to use her business and human-centric design education to tackle healthcare and social enterprise issues in Baltimore.

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During the summer between the first and second years of the MA/MBA in Design Leadership program, students have the opportunity to complete an internship. I spent my summer in Boston, MA at athenahealth as part of their Strategic Design team. Based on my experience, here are eight factors I recommend that you consider as you embark on your internship search.

Is there a specific location you prefer personally or professionally? Do you want to be in an urban or rural environment? What will your commute be like?

Due to personal commitments, I was looking to be in Boston, MA. The athenahealth’s headquarters are just outside of Boston on a campus that used to be an army arsenal. The campus is comprised of several brick warehouses transformed into beautiful office space, and the company offers free shuttles to and from several areas around Boston, making the commute very short.

Company and Culture
Do you want a corporate or start-up feel? Is a social driven mission important to you? What type of work/life balance are you looking for?

After working in corporate healthcare management consulting, I wanted more of a start-up environment but at a company that still had a strong brand. Being a part of a mission-driven healthcare company that serves the clinical space was important to me. The athenahealth’s start-up vibe, cloud-based competitive advantage, and “Unbreak Healthcare” mantra reflected the experience I desired.

Established Internship Program
Does that company have an established MBA internship program? If so, what does that program entail? How big is the internship class and which schools do other interns come from?

I underestimated the importance of having an MBA intern cohort but am glad I chose athenahealth because our cohort of 20 and the accompanying programming had a huge impact on my experience. The 20 MBA interns came from 13 different programs and interned across the organization. We had weekly round tables, met with each member of the senior leadership team, and spent two days touring the Belfast office, braving the ropes course at athenahealth’s Point Lookout training facility (which also happens to be a top wedding destination in Maine), and visiting a free healthcare clinic.

Access to Leadership
Will you be able to interact with company leadership? If so, in what context?

As I mentioned above, the MBA intern cohort met with each leader of the senior leadership team to discuss their paths to athenahealth, day-to-day responsibilities, and vision of athenahealth’s future. In addition, we each delivered a five-minute presentation on our last day to the senior leaders about our work over the summer and accompanying recommendations.

Does the company encourage interns to network beyond their assigned intern role? How much exposure will you have to other teams throughout the organization or thought leaders in your field?

As interns, we were told on Day 1 that a majority of our time at athenahealth should be spent networking with employees across the organization. Everyone, from senior leaders to brand new employees, was willing to talk to us. Speaking to so many people helped to understand what is happening throughout the company and perhaps where we could see ourselves in the future.

Role and Mentorship
Will you be part of a team or assigned a project of your own? Will you have an immediate manager and/or mentor?

athenahealth assigned each MBA intern to a project under the supervision of a senior leader. Most interns worked independently on their projects. While having a designated senior leader seemed like an advantage, unless that senior leader had embedded the intern within a team, it was difficult to determine direction and know who to talk to or where to get information.

Luckily, I was treated as a member of the tight-knit Strategic Design team. My team provided me with independent work but also included me in many of their other meetings, workshops, brainstorming sessions, and activities. My direct manager, the director of the Strategic Design team, and a former MBA intern all served as mentors, meeting with me on a weekly basis.

Does competitive compensation matter to you, or is the experience more important? Is the compensation aligned with your expectations for a full-time salary?

While compensation wasn’t my primary focus, it was important to me that I would feel comfortable accepting a full-time role within a similar salary bracket. Always check Glassdoor or a similar website to try to get intel on what interns at the company or similar companies are being paid so you know if you can negotiate.

Full-time opportunities
Does the company offer MBA interns full-time opportunities? If so, on what timeline?

In my first interview, the recruiter explicitly mentioned that the intention of the internship program is to hire interns full-time with offers typically extended at the end of the summer. With shifting company priorities, the timeline of full-time hiring did change. If sealing the deal of a full-time offer at the end of the summer is a priority for you, be sure to express it.

Internships are the best way to not only demonstrate the value you can provide to a company, but also discover what type of professional environment you do (and don’t) want to be a part of after graduation. Best of luck in your internship search!

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